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Columbia airport expects air travel to rise over the next few months

A Columbia Metropolitan Airport spokesperson says while overall there is a decrease in travel, more and more people are lining up at the TSA check points.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — While there is an overall decrease in travel, more and more people are lining up at the TSA check points, according to officials with Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

This month, TSA reported 1.3 million people passed through checkpoints, which is the highest air traffic levels since before the pandemic. 

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Before the pandemic, you would see plane after plane filled for take off. But once COVID-19 struck, many canceled plans and opted to stay home.

"It’s been a lot of ups and downs," said Kim Jamieson, Director of Marketing and Air Service Development at Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). "There have been so many changes due to the global pandemic that we’re all still experiencing. Here at the airport, specifically, we immediately put things in place to provide safeguards for those who still needed to travel.”

Jamieson said while overall there is a decrease in travel, more and more people are lining up at the TSA check points.

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"Last year you would come out on any given day in the summer months and you saw very few people walking through the airport because there was so much uncertainty, around travel, around COVID-19 and what to do next. Since then we’re starting to see much more activity, which we love to see.”

Passengers are required to wear a mask in the airport and on all flights. For Preston Barnhill, it’s a small price to pay to be able to see loved ones.

"I would say it’s the same. It’s really not a big inconvenience, and I think it’s pretty cut and dry ... just do what you got to do," Barnhill said.

Barnhill has flown during the pandemic and said he is not surprised more people are starting to book tickets.

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"We’re getting the shots, and we are wearing our masks, and people are trying to social distance and people kind of automatically know what to do now," Barnhill said.

The same goes for Judie Doherty who flew to South Carolina from California to visit family.

"Definitely been an uptick in travelers and the planes are more crowded, but the holiday season is coming up, but I would encourage you to see your families but then again be respectful," Doherty said.

And even though overall travel is down, Jamieson expects the number of flyers to rise.

"Year to date 2020 vs. 2021, just looking at January, February, March, we are currently down about 58%, but we’re hopeful that is going to have a significant uptick as the summer months come, and more and more people are vaccinated," Jamieson said. "We are already seeing more and more people that are traveling through the airports drastically.”

Jamieson said a popular destination out of CAE is Florida, and majority of the travel has been leisure, not business related.